At the start of fall semester this year, Roanoke College leadership was made aware that a transgender (male to female) student had requested permission to swim with the women’s swim team. The student had competed on the men’s swim team as a first-year student, then took a year off from competition before returning to the sport this season.
Because Roanoke College is committed to the success and well-being of every student, and because this was the first time Roanoke College had encountered this situation, the administration launched a process to help inform our decision on transgender student-athlete participation in all sports at the College. Our process included analysis of the NCAA policy on transgender student participation in athletics, which states: “Like the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the updated NCAA policy calls for transgender student-athlete participation for each sport to be determined by the policy for the national governing body of that sport.” However, the NCAA also opted for a multi-year phase-in process to the above policy, which has created confusing and contradictory guidance for schools to navigate – particularly since the NCAA has already extended the phase-in process. This confusion puts student-athletes, coaches and college leaders in a difficult and uncertain position.
The Roanoke College Board of Trustees scheduled a meeting for Oct. 3, 2023, to discuss the College’s policy and future stance. Prior to that meeting, our student withdrew her request for participation on the women’s swim team. With a strong desire to cement our school’s approach to similar requests in the future, the board convened on Oct. 3 as planned and voted to formally adopt the NCAA policy; however, our college will forgo the phase-in process. This means Roanoke College will defer to the policy of the national governing body of each sport regarding student-athlete participation eligibility.
"In making this decision, the focus of senior administration and the board of trustees was on maintaining fairness in competition and protecting the integrity of all athletics at Roanoke College,” said Roanoke College President Frank Shushok Jr. “We remain committed to supporting our LGBTQ+ community and our student-athletes, all of whom are valued members of our vibrant community.”